Michelle Stack

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not looking for graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows. Please do not contact the faculty member with any such requests.

Associate Professor

Research Interests

Community Engaged Research
Knowledge translation
Cooperatives and Social Solidarity Economies
University Rankings and Equity
Disability studies
media education

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology

critical discourse analysis
action research
qualitative interviewing

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


To a great supervisor, Dr. Michelle Stack, a huge "THANK YOU" for being such an amazing prof and such a wonderful person!! Your confidence in me and your kind words of encouragement have been a great source of strength for me. To Dr. Michelle Stack and to my committee members, Dr. Andre Mazawi and Dr. Wendy Carr, many thanks for always steering me in the right direction! I'm extremely fortunate to be learning from three exceptionally brilliant profs! Thank you for your gifts of knowledge and your unwavering support.

Sameena Jamal (2019)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Ethnocultural pluralism and the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (2023)

The concept of international-mindedness (IM) is a key feature of all schools offering International Baccalaureate (IB) educational programmes. IM is acknowledged as an aim but realizing it in practice is a process fraught with tensions. This study explored one facet of IM: ethnocultural pluralism (an ethic of respect for ethnocultural diversity). Guided by Stuart Hall’s work on representation and Norman Fairclough’s dialectical-relational approach to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), I analyzed sections of the official IB website and 89 Unit Planners from three schools implementing the Primary Years Programme (PYP) in Africa, the Middle East, and North America, representing the documented pedagogical plans and praxis of teachers of Grades 1 to 5 at each of these schools for the 2018-2019 academic year. The findings of the study indicate that although the IB has made strong statements of commitment in relation to ethnocultural pluralism, its practices do not always reflect enactment of these commitments. The findings further indicate that although all IB schools share this commitment to nurturing IM, there is a great deal of variance in the ways in which this is manifested in schools’ Unit Planners. Additionally, the extent to which, and manners in which, particular ethnocultural groups are included in the Planners draws attention to multilayered issues of representation. The comparative analysis of teachers’ representations of their pedagogical practices, as self-documented in their Unit Planners, generated a continuum of praxis reflecting a range of manners in which teachers at IB PYP schools in diverse geopolitical contexts conceptualize and enact IM and, by extension, ethnocultural pluralism. The meso and macro level contexts and their influences on teacher praxis are unpacked in light of the theoretical and analytical frameworks of this study. The contributions of this study include: deep insights into the PYP; a broader framework for conceptualizing teachers’ approaches for IM and ethnocultural pluralism; concrete examples of praxis for ethnocultural pluralism, including specifically for each of Grades 1 to 5; contributions to literature in overlapping domains; detailed exemplification of analytical processes involved in CDA, including visualizations to guide budding analysts; and a bespoke Analytical Guide for critical analysis of discourses.

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What's at stake and what's at play : a case study of government and non-profit stakeholders and their experiences of power in the early stages of collaboration (2023)

Collaboration is a messy, complicated, and socially constructed (Burr, 2015) practice, involving stakeholders from different organizations to purportedly achieve consensus on mutual aims. It is often presented as a seamless and productive practice of stakeholders negotiating different interests, values, and aims (Gray, 1989). At the same time, it is fraught with tensions and challenges related to varying power and capacities (Gray & Purdy, 2018; Phillips et al., 2000), interacting with the policies and politics in the ecosystem (Weaver-Hightower, 2008), which impacts both the stakeholder experiences and the overall aims of collaboration.This qualitative research study analyzes stakeholders’ experiences from non-profit and government organizations involved in collaboration in a geographically and culturally diverse community in Western Canada. The case, the Young Child project, studied from 2007 to 2011, is bounded (Yin, 2018). Using Gray and Purdy’s (2018) framework for power dynamics within collaboration, I analyze the variations of (a) different forms of power (authority, resources, and discursive power) and (b) power orientations (power over, power to, and power for) taken by stakeholders in their interactions with others.I analyze interview transcriptions, project and policy documents, media articles, and my reflexive journal to examine the multiple dimensions of power in collaboration. I explore three themes: how participants describe their experiences in the Young Child collaboration, what discourses they use to describe positionality, and how participant narratives and project documents reflect the intersection of power and democratic participation in collaboration.Based on my analysis, I argue that concerted time to develop relationships, role clarifications, and emotional connections to the issues at stake during the early stages of collaboration can mitigate abuses of power that can occur in the process. Additionally, I suggest that stakeholder participation defines and constructs collaboration and impacts how dynamics of power are navigated within informal and interactional spaces. I outline the relationship between the politics and policies within the defined collaboration and the surrounding ecosystem. Finally, I conclude that individual stories demonstrate hidden and implicit dynamics in collaboration. And stories also provide opportunities to improve the development of collaborative aims and the experiences of stakeholders involved in this practice.

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You are my mirror: one teacher's autobiographical narrative inquiry into mental illness (2017)

This research is presented as an autobiographical narrative inquiry about one teacher’s experience of living with mental illness. The main objective of this research is to contribute to expanding our understanding of how our education systems must include acceptance and inclusion of the large number of students, educators, school trustees, education bureaucrats, parents and administrators who live with mental illness. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, mental illness will impact one in two Canadians by age 40 with the onset of symptoms occurring during adolescence, making the school system an important public institution for recognizing and treating mental illness. Yet, there continues to be stigma and fear around mental illness, which may hinder peoples’ ability to recognize it in themselves or others. The autobiographical texts contained in this dissertation emerged as I, the researcher, examined my own context in relation to who I was as a researcher, and in particular, as an educational researcher, and specifically, as a teacher, and even more specifically, a teacher with mental illness. My particular illnesses were anxiety and eating disorders. The texts are a collection of stories, journal entries, and report card comments interspersed with and analyzed in relation to literature that includes academic theory, research, poetry, and fiction. I am following in the tradition of others such as Pelias (2016) who puts themselves on display as a researcher “in the belief that an emotionally vulnerable, linguistically evocative, and sensuously poetic voice can place us closer to the subjects we wish to study” (p. 1). In this study I put mental illness on display to examine it from the perspective of curiosity and openness rather than from a place of stigma or fear. I surmise that if a teacher’s educational responsibility is to be open to what Biesta (2013) pens is the call to act in the intervention of others, then one such act is showing up as a human being, with one’s struggles and vulnerabilities, and being open to those of others.

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Symphonie Praxis: A suite exploring faculty experiences and policy frames surrounding digital technologies in British Columbia's post-secondary education system (2016)

This study explores faculty members’ lived experiences with digital technologies in their teaching practice at British Columbia University (BCU), and it investigates these individual experiences within overlapping and interrelated contexts at the global, provincial, and institutional scales.The study was inspired by the researcher’s practice in educational technology leadership at BCU and those experiences, along with the researcher’s perspective as geographer, are seen throughout the study.The research is informed by critical theory of technology to situate the different perspectives used to frame technologies. It draws upon research on globalization to analyze provincial and institutional policy documents. It also draws upon Bourdieu’s ideas on capital to understand power and influence shifts: particularly within the institution and how participants’ capital shifts over time.The study illustrates the complex and sometimes contradictory ways that faculty members see their relationship with digital technologies in their practice, and it highlights how government priorities can become institutional policy and ultimately manifest in faculty members experiences.The study shows how the role of the instructor and the field of higher education are changing, and it situates increasingly ubiquitous digital technologies in the change. It illustrates how participants attribute tensions in their practice to different logics between themselves and BCU administrators. And it shows how participants take on the responsibility themselves of increasing their use of digital technologies, even when they don’t believe more technology use will help their practice.This research contributes to the ongoing discussions regarding higher education policy and the roles for digital technologies within that field.

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Creating Inclusive EAL Classrooms: How LINC Instructors Understand and Mitigate Barriers, for Students who Have Experienced Trauma (2015)

This study explores the assumptions and understandings that English as an Additional Language (EAL) teachers bring to teaching students who they believe have experienced trauma. The instructors in this study teach in a Canadian federally funded program called Language Instruction Program for Newcomers (LINC). The research is informed by the critical literacy work of Paulo Freire, particularly his critique of the banking model of education and his work on dialogue and praxis. The work of Freire is considered in relation to larger conversations about social justice. The research draws on participatory action research. The study illustrates the complex and contradictory understanding that instructors have about trauma and the dilemmas they face in supporting students affected by trauma in a government-funded EAL program for newcomers. First, this project describes the multiple barriers students and instructors face in trying to create inclusive classrooms. Second, it demonstrates that instructors bring a variety of experiences, techniques and processes to support students who have experienced trauma. Third, it shows that for EAL programs to be responsive to the whole student requires a shift away from neo-liberal policy and practice. What is needed is a rethinking of current Professional Development (PD) practices, and active engagement through communities of practice are needed to enable EAL instructors to create more inclusive EAL education, particularly for students who have experienced trauma. This research contributes to the discussion on trauma and learning within government-funded EAL programs, specifically in relation to adult immigrants.

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Walking the talk? Models of disability and discourse in employment policy for Canadians with disabilities (2011)

The research undertaken in this thesis facilitated an examination of the dominant discourses contained in several disability policy documents, the ideological underpinnings driving the discourses and the influence of particular models of disability. This investigation demonstrated that there were in fact two dominant discourses common to all the policy texts, namely a discourse of Independence and a discourse of Employability. These evolved from a status of being overtly referenced within the policy texts to becoming an underlying “given” or “truth”. While the language of various models of disability were used in the texts, there is little evidence to suggest that any particular model had any singular influence. Rather, the use of the language of various models of disability appeared to be “tactical” in nature, and used simply to enhance the legitimacy of the particular discourses or arguments being presented. As the texts appeared to be grounded within a neoliberal policy orientation, the use of the language of the models, particularly the social model of disability, was of value in providing legitimacy to concepts that are in many ways antithetical to some of the core precepts of the models. Lastly, the analysis suggests that the actors with the greatest degree of power and influence during the drafting and implementation of the policy texts remained government officials, and the influence of people with disabilities or their advocates was at best subordinate, or in many cases nonexistent. Through this type of research, policy researchers, advocates and impacted individuals with disabilities who endure the effects of policy, have powerful tools with which to expose these dominant discourses. Often these dominant discourses have evolved into unspoken and taken for granted "truths". Foregrounding such discourses can facilitate the development of counter discourses or strategies to negate or at least minimize the negative impacts that result from policy and program decisions grounded in these discourses. Such a capacity could go a long way in leveling the playing field, and at least to some degree equalize the power differential between government and “others” when presented with skillfully written and often dissembling policy texts.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

How does the University Speak for itself on social media? -- A case study of the University of British Columbia's Facebook and Weibo Page (2021)

International student recruitment is of central importance to universities who aspire to maintain or improve their status in university rankings. A key strategy to garner the attention of prospective students is the use of social media. This study takes University of British Columbia (UBC), a public research university, which has the second-largest number of international students in Canada, as a case study to compare the messaging strategies applied in its two social media platforms, Facebook and Weibo. By arguing that the mediatization of higher education needs to be seen within the broader context of internationalization and marketization of universities, this study examines what school images/identities being presented to audiences on social media platforms and to identify the rationales of messaging strategies UBC employed. Methodologically, this study combines qualitative case study with multimodal critical discourse analysis of UBC Facebook and AskUBC大学 Weibo pages. Notably, this study found that compared to UBC’s Facebook page, messaging strategies on the AskUBC大学 Weibo page were more focused on marketing to prospective students. By analyzing what is present and absent on UBC’s social media platforms, this study found discourses re/produce on UBC Facebook and Weibo pages perpetuate epistemic violence of a global imaginary, which foreground the ideology of White/Western supremacy and have been instrumental in the continuous colonization and dispossession of non-Western, non-English speaking countries and other equity-seeking groups in Canada.

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Rethinking branding in higher education: updating institutional logos in response to anti-racist activism (2021)

Although re/branding work has been understood by many higher education institutions as a measure to respond to challenges of reductions of public funding and increased national and global competition among universities, some Western universities also employed branding work as a public relations strategy. In this study, I specifically look at how two prestigious higher education institutions, Harvard Law School and Imperial College London, updated their institutional logos to respond to internal and/or external pressure to address racism. Changing institutional logos is just one case in the larger contexts of branding as symbolic politics; other examples include renaming a faculty, removing a statue on campus, and so forth. By arguing that updating institutional logos is a non-performative technique to address racism but a performative action for branding, this study asks: how did Harvard Law School and Imperial College explain the reasons for updating their institutional logos; how was the language of anti-racism, diversity and inclusion used in the rebranding process; to what extent do they acknowledge their colonial and racist past and present; and what were the debates and tensions around the decision of updating the institutional logos? Methodologically, this research is a qualitative study and I draw on Critical Discourse Analysis to interpret unequal power relations embedded in discourse from university leaders and students. I primarily collected data including statements and announcements made by university leaders and faculty, committee reports, relevant quotes reported in news articles, social media pages launched by student activists, and petitions written by students. My findings suggest that updating institutional logos can be a non-performative action that fails to lead to substantive institutional changes to address racism and become more inclusive. I also noted that as removing controversial logos might serve the need of improving institutional brands, the rhetoric of change thus reflects an interest convergence.

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Beyond the binary: how secondary students express gender-variant identities (2019)

The inclusion of gender identity and expression in the Canadian Human Rights Code in 2017 denoted a further step forward for LGBTQ recognition. All British Columbia school board policies must now include gender identity and expression in the list of attributes for which students have the right to be protected from discrimination. This thesis is an examination of some of the ways that gender-variant students express their gender identities in B.C. secondary public schools. Engaging with arts-based and narrative inquiry in small group sessions, past students of B.C. secondary schools share some of their experiences of having gender identities that are recognized as falling outside of the dominantly accepted norms of binary gender. Questioning not only how students expressed their gender identities within their school communities, but also where they did/did not find support for those expressions, queer theory and queer phenomenology form the core of the methodology by which these questions are examined. Looking at the ways that students orient themselves within the culture of their schools, the lens of queer phenomenology illuminates the ways in which gender-variant students may be faced with more difficulties than their cisgendered peers to find inclusion and belonging. The lens of queer theory assists in understanding the dominant discourse around gender in the public school system and helps to look critically at how this impacts gender-variant students. The research is an arts-based and narrative inquiry. It involves participants sharing stories while creating individual art pieces that express inner gender identity and outer performances of gender. Discussions included ways in which gender expression during the students’ years in school often varied from their inner identity, and the issues this discrepancy brought forward.

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At what cost? a study of Canada's first public-private post-secondary matriculation pathways partnership (2018)

This study explores Canada’s first private-public matriculation pathways partnership into higher education at the juncture of its ten-year anniversary. In 2006, Simon Fraser University (SFU), a mid-sized, public Canadian research university entered into partnership with Navitas, a private, for-profit, multinational education services provider. The partnership authorized the establishment of Fraser International College (FIC), on SFU’s main campus in Burnaby, British Columbia. Although the partnership was controversial, university administration justified the collaboration as providing enhanced recruitment of international students, financial gains through profit sharing and differential international student tuition fees, and enhanced academic and social supports for students. Unlike previous outsourcing to the private sector in Canadian higher education, the SFU-FIC/Navitas partnership allowed for in-roads into core academic functions of the university. Since its inception, FIC/Navitas has extended its purview by claiming delivery of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) language instruction once located in SFU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Theoretically, literature on globalization and internationalization of higher education as informed by neo-liberal ideology are employed and intersect with literature on the role of EAP. As university websites have come to have significant discursive influence and international reach, methodologically, this research combines qualitative case study with multimodal critical discourse analysis of SFU-FIC/Navitas partnership web pages. My primary findings reveal that the public and private partners share promotional discourses of marketization to their external market. However, there are some differences. The public partner, SFU, also relies on more traditional academic and social discourses of community, access, and inclusion when addressing local audiences while the private partner, FIC/Navitas, relies on the social and academic capital generated by the public partner, SFU, for legitimacy and growth. I also found discourses present on SFU and FIC/Navitas websites point to contradictions with potential to impact both students and staff. Further findings indicate that the ongoing marginalization of EAP programs within the university provided an opening for FIC to grow its presence and profitability.

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Constructing, presenting, and expressing self on social network sites : an exploratory study in Chinese university students' social media engagement (2016)

During past few years, social media, particularly social network sites (SNS) have emerged and attracted an increasing number of young people. SNS is a significant venue for youth to construct their identities through the interaction with their peers. Most current literature, available in English, focuses on the experiences of youth with SNS who live in Western societies. This exploratory study explores how undergraduates at universities in China construct, present and express their identity on SNS in relation to others. Five semi-structured interviews were conducted with college students to capture their lived experience with SNS. I drew on concepts of identity, subjectivity and dramaturgy and literature that examine tensions between concepts of collectivism and individualism in China. This study concludes that: Firstly, SNS provides a space for young people to explore and perform themselves towards what they see as their ideal self. However it does not mean young people can construct a brand new identity without the intervention of their offline identity. How they construct themselves and how they are constructed occurs in relation to their offline friendship circle as to the discursive world they live within. Participants spoke about the tensions in trying to balance collectivistic culture and individualistic culture, which influenced participants' sense of self and the way they presented themselves on SNS. Young people are deeply involved in their online presence and reality, and so both discursive worlds influence who they think they are in relation to others. Secondly, SNS is a “front stage” for young people to deliberately present themselves and manage the impression they gave to others. Both written texts and visualized pictures afford young people to “give” or “give off” their performance to their online audience (Goffman, 1959, p. 3). However on SNS the boundary between “front stage” and “back stage” is blurred and it is difficult for participants to keep track of different online and offline connections and, based on this, what to post. The study points to the importance of understanding SNS use within the particularities of cultural contexts.

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The emotional struggles of teaching journalism and diversity : a case study of professors' responses at one journalism school (2011)

This thesis offers a partial historiography of a cross-cultural reporting course taught in a Canadian journalism school, the Ryerson School of Journalism. At its initiation, this course was the first of its kind in Canada to address a pressing need for journalists to challenge the stereotyping of racialized minorities in mainstream media within the backdrop of changing demographics in Canada and a globalized media landscape. Drawing from interviews with the creator of the course and subsequent instructors, this study will detail the emotional and political challenges that instructors faced in developing and implementing the course, and the curriculum changes they made to overcome these challenges. This thesis then examines what journalism schools can learn from Ryerson about the obstacles that instructors face when teaching students about race in the media.

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News Releases

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